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Tigers chief Cockerill admits O'Connor set for Leinster job at end of season

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Richard Cockerill the Leicester director of rugby and assistant Matt O'Connor(r)

Richard Cockerill the Leicester director of rugby and assistant Matt O'Connor(r)

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Richard Cockerill the Leicester director of rugby and assistant Matt O'Connor(r)

LEICESTER director of rugby Richard Cockerill has admitted that he expects head coach Matt O'Connor to leave for Leinster at the end of the season.

The Australian's appointment appears a formality at this stage after he spent time in Dublin last week, meeting with players and officials at the European champions' UCD base.

O'Connor is believed to have turned down a contract offer from the Tigers in order to make the move to Leinster and his boss Cockerill believes he will coach at the highest level after making the next step with the Irish province.

"I'm aware of the interest in Matt. He has been over to Leinster to see them. Matt's ambition is to coach international rugby. The next step would be to make the move to a big club like Leinster," the former England hooker said.

"I'd be surprised if he was not coaching on the international scene in the next few years."

Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin says that replacing Joe Schmidt with the right man is crucial for the province's future success.

"It's imperative," he said. "We've done a great job with our last coaches, Michael Cheika and Joe obviously, and for us to continue our upward trend, we need to get the right guy to continue that."

McLaughlin should benefit from the Lions call-ups for Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien by getting on the summer tour to the USA and Canada and he is hoping that Schmidt will continue to be an admirer.

"He's been good to me and picked me over the last few years for the big games," said McLaughlin.

"Obviously international rugby is another step up, I'm always pushing to step up, and having a coach I know I can work well with there gives me confidence. But I know myself he won't pick me unless I justify selection."

Before he can think about Ireland, McLaughlin has the Ospreys on his mind, and Friday night's chance at revenge on the team who beat them in last year's Pro12 final. Leinster can put the Welsh region out of the play-offs with a win.

"We're looking at it as a knockout because if the Ospreys don't win they're gone; if we don't win we're looking at possibly an away semi.

"If we win on Friday we're at home for the rest of the season. Obviously we're always looking to get our payback against them.

"We know we can beat them and hopefully we can do it on Friday."

Irish Independent